Saturday, August 22, 2015

Glacier Wildfire Updates - U.S. Highway 2 Reopens

Below is updated information on the five wildfires burning in or near Glacier National Park. Highway 2 along the southern border of the park reopened as of 8 a.m. today, with pilot cars escorting traffic in both directions to ensure safe traffic flow through the fire area. Amtrak trains will also be running today. For more information on Amtrak you can call 1-(800) 872-7245. You can also click here for current road status. Residents and businesses in the vicinity of Essex have been alerted for possible evacuation.

A cold front with thunderstorms and some rain late yesterday cleared the smoky conditions in the area. The rain had some slowing effect on the fires. However, all fires continue to burn and fuels are expected to dry out today as temperatures rise and light winds pick up. Temperatures are predicted to rise back into the 80s starting tomorrow, with a possibility of reaching the 90s by Wednesday. Air operations are expected to resume today. A Sky Crane Type-1 Helicopter, capable of carrying a water load equivalent in weight to an F-550 truck, is scheduled to arrive today. A mobile fire retardant base is being used for helicopter bucket drops.

The Sheep Fire is located roughly 2.5 miles south of Essex in the Great Bear Wilderness of Flathead National Forest. It is burning in very steep, difficult terrain with limited access. The fire was very active yesterday with the influence of the predicted Red Flag weather conditions. The fire spread northeast toward the Middle Fork and was about ½ mile from the transportation corridor the prior evening. Portions of the Highway 2 corridor around Essex remain in the ‘Set’ Stage of the Ready, Set, Go evacuation strategy. Residents of Essex and surrounding area are advised to prepare their property and themselves for possible evacuation. People should load critical property and needs into their vehicle in preparation. They should have an evacuation plan in place and make sure everyone knows the plan. There are more than 200 structures at risk. The fire has grown to 428 acres in size, with 0% containment.

The Granite Fire is west of Marias Pass and south of Hwy. 2 in the Great Bear Wilderness. It is burning in very steep terrain in a mixed conifer forest below a ridge. Thursday, crews assessed the area to determine the best plan of attack. They implemented structure protection measures on several backcountry cabins. Crews have been encountering numerous snags that need to be dealt with for safety before line construction. The Granite Creek Trail (#156) is closed. The fire is roughly 176 acres in size, with 0% containment.

The Thompson Fire is located in a remote south-central backcountry area of Glacier National Park about 15 miles east of the West Glacier entrance in the Thompson and Nyack drainage and west of the Continental Divide.Crews made good progress yesterday mopping up some edges from burnout operations earlier in the week to contain the fire. Today, crews will continue that effort. The fire remains west of the Divide and poses no threat to communities around East Glacier and St. Mary. The fire remains at 14,095 acres in size, with 0% containment.

Below is a map showing the areas affected by fires in the southern portion of the park:

The Waterton Lake wildfire is now 95% contained, and is still 'being held'. Parks Canada continues to work with the US National Park Service to manage the forest fire near Goat Haunt in Glacier National Park. The fire remains approximately 25 acres in size. It's located on the slopes of Campbell Mountain, on the west side of Upper Waterton Lake. Five crews and one helicopter continue to fight the fire. The Lakeshore Trail from the junction with Bertha Lake Trail to Boundary Bay, and Boundary Creek Trail from Summit Lake to Boundary Bay in Waterton Lakes National Park are closed. Boulder Pass Trail from Francis Lake Campground to Goat Haunt; Boundary Trail from Goat Haunt to the International boundary; and Waterton Valley Trail from Stony Indian Junction to Goat Haunt in Glacier National Park are also closed.

The Reynolds Creek Fire near St. Mary Lake continues to burn within the fire perimeter on the east side of the park. Holding and mop-up operations continue on the 4311-acre fire, which is currently 67% contained.

The Going-to-the-Sun Road remains open through the park. For the most up-to-date information on the expanded trail and area closure statuses, please click here. You can also visit the Inciweb website, or call (406) 314-1669 for updated fire information. 

Although several wildfires are currently burning in or near Glacier, the rest of the park is still open with tons of outstanding hiking opportunities still available. Remember, the park is more than one million acres in size, and there's still plenty of epic Glacier National Park scenery to explore. For more information on many of the hikes in these areas, please click here.


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